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New thermoplastic compound with increased electrical conductivity produced by ECOFUNEL

19 February 2021

Transitioning metal parts to composite materials within the environmental control system (ECS) has two main benefits: reducing weight and negating the need for harmful chromium surface treatments. Chromium is both toxic to the environment and carcinogenic, so reducing the use of this element will also bring health benefits for workers. 

The ECOFUNEL project not only developed a new kind of thermoplastic that works just as well as the current state-of-the-art, but also delivered several real-scale prototypes of parts of the ECS of the aircraft produced with the new material. 

The result is a fibre-reinforced thermoplastic formulation with enhanced electrical conductivity that can be employed in ECS without the need for electric braids to assure the electrical continuity of the conductions. It showed 8X electrical conductivity as compared to the reference material, with only a 20% decrease in mechanical properties. At this stage mass savings offered by this material are estimated to be in the range of 40-50% compared to metallic baseline designs, and finer estimates will be carried out in 2021.

Further applications of the technology will be determined between March-April 2021, when the project outcomes will be presented to Liebherr’s scientific and product community. As a spin-off result, ECOFUNEL also found an interesting electrical enhancement effect of certain heat treatments on the thermoplastic formulations. 

The project involved CTAG, the Automotive Technology Centre of Galicia, ADERA (Association pour le Developpement de l’Enseignement et des Recherches auprès des universités, des centres de recherche et des enterprises d’Aquitaine), FIDAMC, the Foundation for the Research, Development and Application of Composite Materials, and Liebherr Aerospace. The budget was € 500 000.